The Ross Report - 24 October 2014
This is my first newsletter since the recent elections and I want to say a huge thank you. To the 21,000 people that voted for me - I appreciate you putting your faith in me again. To the hundreds of volunteers and supporters - I wouldn't be in this job without your unwavering support.
Parliament goes back
This week the 51st Parliament was opened with two important ceremonial occasions. Firstly the Commission Opening of Parliament where MPs were sworn in. Secondly with the State Opening of Parliament where His Excellency, the Governor-General of New Zealand, Sir Jerry Mateparae outlined the Government's agenda for the next three years. These ceremonies have been undertaken in New Zealand since Parliament first met in Auckland in 1854.
At the State Opening the Governor-General delivered the ‘Speech from the Throne’ to detail the work we will be doing on behalf of New Zealanders. It's an opportunity for us to reaffirm the commitments we made during the election campaign and to build on the work done in the past six years. Three of our main priorities outlined in the speech include:
- building an even stronger economy,
- improving education,
- improving housing affordability.
Building an even stronger economy
A strong economy is the best way to improve the lives of all New Zealanders. Economic growth means more jobs and higher wages for hardworking New Zealanders. The economic settings we have put in place have led to the economy growing at 3.9% in the past year. This is the highest growth rate in a decade and sees New Zealand as one of the fastest growing economies in the OECD.
We will keep government spending under control, with a relentless focus on returning to surplus. Our long-term fiscal objective is to reduce net core Crown debt to 20 per cent of GDP by 2020. The belt tightening of the past six years also means we are in a position to increase investment on important services in a limited way. This new spending will be capped at $1 billion per year. This will enable us to keep encouraging the investment and enterprise needed to create new jobs and increase incomes. We will focus on rewarding New Zealanders’ hard work.
Education is the best way to lift people out of poverty and improve their future prospects. This term we will be implementing our $359 million education initiative to raise teaching quality and school leadership to deliver a better education to every student. This initiative will help to keep the best teachers in the classroom and means the most highly effective teachers will be encouraged and rewarded for sharing their skills with others in their profession.
We have also announced that we will invest up to $18 million a year over four years for 800,000 more teacher aide hours to support children who have conditions that affect their learning. This includes conditions such as dyslexia, ADHD and Asperger syndrome. These students don’t always meet the threshold for intensive special needs support under the current system, but we recognise they need assistance to learn and make the most of the opportunities they have at school. Our plan to boost teacher aide hours will see students who need more individual time given the help they need and our teachers feeling more supported. It's estimated about 4000 students will benefit from this initiative.
Improving housing affordability
Good quality housing and targeted support is important for the health and wellbeing of New Zealand families and communities. Housing remains an important issue, especially in Auckland, with land prices increasing faster than we would like them to. This is primarily due to a shortage of land being made available for development. One of the initiatives we have taken to slow escalating land prices is through Special Housing Areas. These SHAs are being used to increase the supply of land available for housing as well as fast tracking council consent processes.
Fixing the issue in the longer term will also mean making changes to the Resource Management Act. This Government is committed to introducing and passing a Resource Management Act reform package to provide more certainty, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness in resource allocation decisions. This will go hand in hand with our focus on freeing up more residential land, reducing compliance costs, improving sector productivity and facilitating competition in the building material market.
There is no single solution to housing affordability but a concerted effort across a range of areas will have an impact.